BOCA RATON, Fla. — Members of the faculty at Florida Atlantic University voiced their concerns Monday with school officials concerning COVID-19.
Classes for the fall semester are underway, but a petition is asking the administration to implement a safer campus amid the spike in virus cases and hospitalizations in Florida.
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"The governor continues to play politics with our lives and our students' lives by prohibiting mask mandates and required vaccinations in his bid for re-election in 2022 and national ambitions for 2024," the petition reads.
Faculty members are asking for the school's leadership to implement the following:
- Require all students, faculty and staff who plan to live, study or work on campus be fully vaccinated against COVID-19
- Setting up vaccination sites in parking lots, on the breezeway and in other public thoroughfares with high traffic.
- Send regular emails providing vaccination site locations and hours of operation
- Make it mandatory that all persons on campus wear masks when indoors
- Allow faculty to be able to modify their instructional delivery, including changing to in-person classes to fully online if needed
Faculty, students and staff held a demonstration Monday at the school's Administration Building to voice their concerns for a safer campus.
"We are very unhappy with the lack of a mask mandate. We are unhappy with the lack of vaccinations sites on campus, and we are unhappy with not having the option of putting our classes fully online," said Deandre Poole, United Faculty of Florida-FAU president.
Those attending the rally held signs that read, "Education Not Infection," "Unfair and Unhealthy," "Science is Real" and "Protect our Owl Family."
"It's an embarrassment why we're out here because we're not asking for the impossible," FAU Film and Media Studies professor Chris Robe said. "We're asking the people who lead the university to actually lead it."
More than 160 faculty members have signed the petition.
"I'm getting emails from students every day saying, 'Do I have to come to class? What do I do if I can't get vaccinated because I have a pre-existing condition? What do I do if my child is at home, and I don't want to bring COVID back?'" said Nicole Morse, an FAU assistant professor.
FAU Associate Vice President Joshua D. Glanzer said the school has sent more than a dozen emails about vaccines and other COVID-19 related topics since May 1.
"We also have a COVID-19 advisory web page that has been up since the beginning of the pandemic [that] is regularly updated," Glanzer said in a written statement.
Glanzer said faculty members have remote options to teach based on certain situations.
Regarding masks and vaccine requirements, Glanzer said the state universities are responding as a single system, and this does not currently include mask or vaccine mandates.
Lisa Metcalf, the chief press officer at FAU, also released the following statement regarding Monday's faculty protest:
"The small number of faculty who gathered today were able to freely express their opinions, which is very important. The Florida State University System as a whole is in constant contact as COVID-19-related protocols and public health recommendations remain very fluid. Getting vaccinated is still the most important step anyone can take and doing so is greatly encouraged."